Objectives, motivation killers or strong boosters?

Along the years to many were the occasions where I knew beforehand that no matter what the conditions were – team readiness and competences, or corporate culture and organization -, my objectives were impossible to achieve. Why? Because they had been set in such incomprehensible and unrealistic terms that they were completely impossible to achieve. Therefore, I keep wondering, how can unreachable objectives help companies being competitive? Well, I strongly believe that they CANNOT!

Why setting objectives? Answering to this question must be the very first thing to do, immediately followed by answering, “Why these (objectives) and not any other?”.

Objectives must be aligned with the business strategy, execution plan, available resources, and time span. If companies do not take any of this into account, how can they set objectives that make sense? The more randomly objectives are set the more impossible are to achieve them.

So what do you need to know, or have, in order to be able to set relevant and coherent objectives? Objectives must bring value into the company not only in the short but also in the medium and long run. Objectives must be always aligned with business strategy, major goals, and an execution plan. Objectives should not be limited to financial, profit or cash related indicators, they must translate also the company’s “health” in other areas such as operations, sales profitability, innovation, competitiveness, readiness and flexibility toward future challenges, people development and talent management, suppliers quality and capabilities, or customers satisfaction and loyalty. In order to have a strong, complete and cross-section set of objectives and KPIs (key performance indicators) several methodologies can  be used and built. I am particularly fond of the balanced scorecard approach along with a strong mapping of the strategic areas that should be impacting or being impacted by the business strategy. This strategic mapping help defining the strategic objectives that must be monitoring, after that is key to define the way of measuring them and set a target/deadline to be achieved. The important aspect to highlight here is that what ever approach one takes, it must take into account the following aspects: business strategy; strategy execution; top/bottom and bottom/up analysis; cross-section KPIs (include more than just financial, profit and cash related KPIs); KPIs must be set by area only after the integrated analysis (strategic mapping, top/bottom, and bottom/up analysis); resources available and needed; talent and human resources needed; reporting and control system (that helps mitigating risks, taking decisions, and learning).

I see objectives as key to competitiveness! If one does not have a set of KPIs and targets to be achieved, how can this person know if it is working well, evolving, and adding value? In my perspective, well defined objectives are a strong motivational tool. How can companies stay in the market and be competitive if they do not measure their achievements and set targets to be achieved? However, objectives should not be the end goal of a company, but rather a way of knowing if the company is in the right path toward its business strategy and vision. Obviously, business strategy or vision are changeable, though they should be set for a horizon of 4 to 5 years, and not yearly, and be more than just a profit statement. A multi-annual execution plan accommodating objectives for the period must be designed before going setting objectives. Objectives are a too important tool to be misused! Objectives must be a strong motivation booster rather than a motivation killer!

Can Team Spirit Be a Competitive Advantage?

In a world that is changing fast and facing amazing challenges, namely a war for talent or globalization, Team Spirit can work as a Competitive Advantage! I am one of those people that believes that having a strong and engaged team can make the difference. So, I prefer to have a team committed to a common goal, and working together, than a group of amazing stars working individually. When choosing your team members, what kind of people would you like to have? I know that a lot of aspects must be equated before going on choosing members for your team. Nevertheless, I believe that to build a real Team, one needs to have people who are able, and willing, to work above their egos, individual agendas, and anything that inhibits a truly open and sharing environment. I am not saying that you should not have the best of the best (stars) in your teams, or that stars are not able to work as truly team members. What I am saying is that having a team it is much more than having a group of stars. And that team spirit can work as a competitive advantage, helping companies being the leaders of their industries or niches.

In order to ignites team spirit it is important to have a corporate culture that enables openness, sharing, cooperation, recognition, and motivation. Although all of these aspects are important, motivation is specially important to create the right environment and conditions, and contrary to what is believed, it is not only about money! Several studies mention that above a certain wage level, motivation is mainly about challenge, recognition, opportunity to master, ability to share, work-life balance, autonomy and responsibility, rather than cash prizes and bonus. Therefore, I believe that team spirit and corporate culture can have also positive effect on motivation levels.

Having the right people it is not enough, a “head” is needed to coordinate and motivate them. Hence, companies must have more than just talented people with team spirit, they must have a leader to shape them into a team. Stir people toward a common goal and to excel it is not easy but is crucial. If companies do not have the right Leader, they are missing a strong source of competitive advantages, team work.

How many times haven’t your boss asked you: “Hmm, this team of yours is not working! How about changing it?”. Only a couple of months after you have started working with them? Too many, right? Practice it is the last ingredient I would like to mention. By practice I mean routine, time working together, and experience. In order to have the best out of a team time is needed, time to experience, to adapt, to learn how members work, think and behave. Like a sports team, a team needs hours working together to reach their best.

Summing up, Team Spirit can be a competitive advantage! In times of war for talent and highly competitive markets companies cannot forget to keep investing on having people working together. and the why is easy, Teams work better and achieve more than individuals. A company with a culture that stimulates team spirit, people performing at their best and to master, to share and cooperate, are much better prepared to face successfully the 21st century. Although Team Work and motivation are linked and must be seen as the two faces of the same coin, it does not suffice. A company needs to have a corporate culture that helps cooperation and openness, and Leaders to ignite the right behaviors. Last, but not least, “practice” must be also present in order to have a team working at their best and creating real competitive advantages! Teams need time to work together and fine tune internal dynamics.

Are You Ready to Fail?

Are you ready to fail? No? Well, even if you have everything the business manuals say you should have to be a success case – an amazing product/service, a flawless business plan, competitive advantages, and qualified resources -, please, be prepared to fail! When I say this I am not being pessimist, I am rather trying to be ready and keep my alertness levels high. I am convinced that by acknowledging that I might fail, I am being proactive toward trends and challenges, and better prepared to anticipate them with innovative and creative solutions, therefore, keeping, or even improving, my competitive advantages. And I believe that this will help companies staying in business longer and in better shape.

Failure is part of life! Today’s “best” companies can be tomorrow’s failures. It is not because a company it is a “strong” one today that it will stay that way in the future, failure can happen in between. A more proactive behavior regarding failure can bring a higher level of readiness and help facing the challenges ahead. Failure should be more present in the business lexicon, and faced as something that happens!

Be ready to fail, it will help you anticipating changes rather than copping with them. Innovating and creating are key to competitiveness in the 21st century market, and failure is part of both.

How Can A Corporate Culture Based on Frugality Save Your Brand?

I strongly believe that a company does not need to spoil resources to have a strong brand or be competitive Yet, we keep seeing companies spending and spoiling more than they can afford. Working for cost sensible companies gave me an insightful position on this matter, but never inhibited me of focusing on quality or brand image. Therefore, I still believe that if a company wants to face successfully the challenges ahead, it needs Leadership not vanity, and a culture of cost sensibility and frugality, instead of one based on waste .

Cost sensible does not mean less quality or weak brands, it means instead a sensible management of expenses. A company does not need to have expensive offices, latest state of the art fleet, or exquisite furniture to run a business successfully! It needs instead an informed and well trained team willing to be creative and innovative without a millionaire budget, and always committed to be lean and customer-oriented. More important, it needs a leader who uses the companies assets wisely and productively.

cost-sensible and frugal culture can work as a way of freeing up resources to invest in new capabilities and gain stronger competitive advantages. Obviously, for this to happen the company must re-invest the freed-up resources in crucial areas such as innovation, creativity, uniqueness, talent management, R&D or other that can add uniqueness and factors of differentiation.

I strongly advocate that a cost-sensible and frugal culture as a competitive advantage factor and a brand saviour. 

What Complexity Has To Do With Being Competitive? Nothing, I Must Confess!

Complexity is everywhere, I know! However, I sometimes feel that some companies want a piece of this complexity to feel like God, omnipresent and omniscient. This companies believe that by making use of a puzzled language and complex processes they are differentiating themselves from their competition and being unique. Not True!

We, human beings, have a problem with simple things, we believe that to be good and better than others one needs to be complicated and complex. I advocate that complexity leads only to a false sense of superiority, and creates a feeling of suspiciousness in consumers. Consumers do not like to be tricked or fooled by incomprehensible language and processes, though. Complexity does not lead to any competitive advantage, but it can cause damages! It generates difficulties in handling and optimizing processes, and in designing business strategies.

Being simple does not mean simplistic, like complexity does not mean competitiveness! Please avoid shortcuts and keep it simple, invest in uniqueness, creativity and innovation instead!

Diversity: the secret ingredient of success!

How important is diversity for your business? A question that any single entrepreneur should ask when starting a company. Nowadays it is quite common to hear companies saying out loud that they have a diversity policy regarding their people and teams. Though, I must say that too many times this is just a branding campaign made convey a message of “respect” by diversity to its key stakeholders. But, in some countries there are quotas ( a minimum percentage) that companies must fulfill regarding certain factors of discrimination, like gender or ethnicity. Nevertheless, a quota is just a quota, and unfortunately it does not change mentalities or real discrimination! Howsoever, it is some times the only way to achieve equal treatment and opportunity to everybody!

A more interesting approach to diversity can only happen after the acknowledgment of its positiveness toward human kind’s evolution. In my point of view, it is amazingly important what a company, a business, can gain with a strong and real diversity policy. However, for this to be truly accomplished, the Human Resources Department (aka People Department aka Human Capital Department aka other any name used for the department running the department related to everything related to people) should have a seat at the board of directors, the place where every single corporate and business strategy is discussed. Why? Well, how can a company define a business strategy without having a serious and well done analysis on the needs and impacts of it on the company’s most precious “asset”, its people? It is, in my viewpoint, impossible to define and implement a business strategy without having the responsible for the people strategy seated at the Board’s table discussing and brainstorming on the company’s key issues. I am leaving this subject for another post or posts, due to the complexity of the subject! I am now more interested in discussing a more specific subject: how can diversity be faced as a competitive advantage for your business? I have written about non-regular factors of competitiveness like happiness, sense of humor, motivation, or people in  general. I am here today to discuss diversity as a factor of competitiveness! How can it work? Well, let’s start by explaining what diversity means to me, it means people with different: cultural background, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or demographics. Although, my definition is not a scientific one, it is the way I perceived reality! Reality is full of differences, people absorb that differences, becoming different themselves! Globalization brought together people from different regions, countries, continents. People with different ways of living, believes or faiths. People with different social, cultural, educational, religious backgrounds, that are mixing and evolving together and generating an enriched melting pot full of diversity! These richness can and should be used by companies and organizations in a positive and inclusive way! Companies should be the privileged place where the melting pot happens, and grow! Why? Because diversity, in this sense, can help finding new ways of working, new ideas, innovation, new experiences, new approaches, …! An old saying says: Two heads think better than one! I would like to add that two “different” heads can make miracles! Creativity and innovation are boosted through diversity, and a company can gain a lot by having a diversity policy! Even us, mere human beings, can profit from the interaction with diversity, people from different backgrounds and ethnicities. However, to do so, companies and people must have an open-mind and a true respect by other’s opinions and believes.

Myself, I have learned a lot by interacting with people with different ethnicities, and cultural and religious backgrounds! I have seen the melting pot in action, and I must say that it is amazing the high level results companies can achieve if working with diversity!

Marketing and Sales: 2 Deadly Mistakes!

In my opinion, there are two highly deadly mistakes not only for Marketing and PR, but also for Sales! First, publicizing and communicate something (launch or just a campaign) to not be able to deliver; and last, not having a Marketing (going to market) nor a PR Strategy (nowadays with a good marketing strategy covering from traditional to digital a company can do a acceptable work regarding PR).

Regarding the latest one, I believe that not having a clear idea about how to market a company can be the most deadly of the mistakes a company can make. Why? 1) if a company does not have an idea about how to market itself often means that the crucial Marketing work was not done: market research, audience (clients or customers to target) analysis and its segmentation, market positiong, value chain analysis, mix to offer (product, price…). This means that a company is going to market almost blind with little knowledge of what exists, to whom target or simply where to promote and sale, killing that way the opportunity to win. 2) Do not have a value proposition to communicate or at least do not have the right means to communicate means not leveraging on the proper PR and Branding tools to create a strong a well shaped Brand; 3) No idea about market value or customer lifetime value meaning a short term vision. Well, sometimes what happens is that the company as an idea on all of these aspects but it does not have a structured approach. An old Chinese saying says: “There is no good wind if you do not know where to go”. If the company do not have a vision or a goal to pursuit the company is adrift, spending and spoiling good products, ideas, and scarce resources.

On the other side, if a company has an amazing marketing campaign supporting the launch or special activities but it does not have the correct implementation plan or team to back up and make things happen in the field the company is in big trouble too. It is like shooting your own foot! Normally this mistake happens due to miscommunication between key areas of the business like corporate strategy, marketing, PR and sales (and sometimes operations). However, miscommunication happens often between marketing and sales. Lacking liaison these two departments miss too often to properly communicate what leads to major failures in sales and commercial plan alignment and accuracy. In my opinion liaison is needed within companies, and only a few can do it properly! Sometimes one has the bricks but misses the cement to glue them successfully!

Two deadly mistakes not too difficult to avoid, and that everybody knows but no one wants to act on them! Why? Different reasons being the most strong one the difficulty felt by managers to focus on the holistic plan, leaving their own manors aside! Nevertheless, the 21st century’s challenges are not compatible with selfishness and individualism, instead they need collaboration and teamwork!